Where is the line?

Image: A country road with dotted lines travels into the mist. Photo by Unsplash / Pixabay.

A thoughtful post from a senior rabbi whose sechel (wisdom) I respect. Rabbi Stephen L. Fuchs is the author of Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives. I’ve linked to posts on his blog before. I hope you find this as thought-provoking as did I.

Finding Ourselves In Biblical Narratives

Where is the Line? When will we know that we must leave?

These are serious questions asked by serious questioners.

The election of Donald Trump has turned the world upside down.

At a lesson for adults at the Reform synagogue in Kiel, Germany last week, a highly respected and caring OB-GYN raised this question because of her concern about what might happen in next year’s German elections. She is proud of being Jewish and makes sure that the many Syrian refugee women she treats in her home city of Flensburg know of her heritage.

Shortly after we arrived home, my older son Leo asked the same question, “Where is the line?” Leo helped found a college preparatory elementary school—which he continues to serve as Principal— to give disadvantaged students a better chance at life in the inner city of Oakland, California.

Both of these individuals work tirelessly to make the…

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8 More Actions Against Hate

Image: 15 people demonstrate, holding up banners with hearts. 

In American Hate: It’s Time to Speak Up I listed 7 ways to act against hate in America. Since then, more possibilities have crossed my radar, and I want to share them with you. Understand that some of these are time limited: act now, or be too late.

  1. Urge Congress to Stand Firm on White House Leadership Appointments. This week President-Elect Trump named Steve Bannon as White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor. As an editor and as a strategist in the Trump campaign, Mr. Bannon promoted white supremacist ideologies including anti-Semitism, misogyny, racism and Islamophobia. The Religious Action Center has provided a form that will help you look up your senators’ and representative’s addresses and send a letter protesting this appointment.
  2. The 2016 Election isn’t over yet! Louisiana still hasn’t voted on a Senator and the Democrat in the race has a good chance to win. His name is Foster Campbell, a rancher, who was was elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission with more than 78 percent of the vote in 2008. According to Jonathan Walczak writing in The Hill: “Electing Foster Campbell is the most immediate way to rebuke President-elect Trump. A Campbell victory would mean a 51-49 split in the Senate. This is the last best way to make a difference in 2016.” To help, first go to  www.fostercampbell2016.com and check Mr. Campbell out. If you can support him with a donation, no matter how small, it will help. If you know voters in Louisiana, call and remind them to show up and vote in the runoff on Dec 10.
  3. Read this Sally Kohn articles in the Washington Post: This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter. See what applies to you and run with it.
  4. Support the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). It is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants. Again, visit the website, read their materials, and donate if you can and if their goals sound right to you.
  5. Subscribe to your local newspaper and to publications that don’t preach anyone’s party line. The “Fourth Estate” is an essential part of a healthy democracy, and our has been sadly weakened by the advent of “free” online news sources. When you pay for your newspaper, online or offline, you are paying journalists to ask questions and dig for answers. The good ones annoy politicians of ALL stripes. Personally I subscribe to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and SFGate, the news source for the SF Bay Area. There is no more important investment you can make in the functioning of our democracy than to hire some good watchdogs.
  6. Volunteer and/or give financial support to Planned Parenthood. Republican plans for the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court do not bode well for women’s access to reproductive medical care, birth control, and legal abortion.
  7. Join a synagogue, if you haven’t already done so. Ask about their social justice programming. Combining your energy with that of other Jews makes for more effective activism.
  8. Educate yourself. Listen to minority voices online, in print, and in person. Don’t assume you know what’s best for African-Americans, Muslims, women, poor people, Native Americans, incarcerated persons, LGBTQI, or disabled persons. They aren’t stupid, even though institutionalized racism has taught those of us with privilege to think they are. Don’t assume that your minority status makes you an expert on someone else’s needs. In short, don’t talk – LISTEN.

What are you doing to fight hate in America? If you are a member of a minority, what have you seen that worked?

Turning Mourning into Meaning in the Post-Election Period

We Jews and all peoples of faith and moral purpose need to put one foot in front of the other and not get lost, to perform deeds of loving-kindness constantly, to pursue justice and peace unrelentingly, to be agents of hope always, and to be an “or la-goyim – a light unto the nations.” – Rabbi John Rosove

Regular readers know that periodically I repost entries from Rabbi John Rosove’s blog. He’s one of the rabbis I read regularly and trust. This sermon for Temple Israel of Hollywood spoke straight to my heart.

I hope that it gives you the comfort that it gave me.

L’shalom, Rabbi Ruth Adar

 

Rabbi John Rosove's Blog

The  following is a sermon I delivered to my congregation this past Friday night, November 11, 2016, after the shock of the Trump electoral victory.

The impact of this now concluded presidential campaign and the election results have shocked not only this country but the world. One either has been lifted up upon wings of eagles or plunged into despair like Jonah in the belly of the great fish.

I don’t presume to know the hearts and minds of every member of our community. I know only my own mind and heart, and it’s from there that I speak to you tonight.

I hope my words will reflect the thoughts of many, and if they do – good! If not, it can’t be helped.

My challenge this week, like yours, has been to cope with an election result that has caused me deep distress and anxiety, and then to find…

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American Hate: It’s Time to Speak Up

Image: Storm clouds gather over a landscape. Photo by Unsplash at pixabay.com.

Friends, I want to make you aware of something happening right now in the United States. This is something that transcends politics; whether you voted Trump or Clinton or 3rd Party or not at all, it concerns all Americans of good will.

More than 800 journalists have received hate mail and/or death threats via Twitter and other social media outlets over the past year, and the pace has escalated since the election. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report:

The top 10 most targeted journalists – all of whom are Jewish – received 83 percent of those 19,253 tweets. The top 10 includes conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman, and CNN’s Sally Kohn and Jake Tapper.

More than 2/3 of these tweets were sent by only 1200 Twitter accounts, out of the 313 million accounts currently active on Twitter. Twitter has deactivated 21% of the offending accounts; the ADL is in conversation with them about the others.

Language in these tweets is overtly anti-Semitic. In an Atlantic article by Emma Green, she reports:

Beyond hateful language, users often photoshop journalists’ faces into images from the Holocaust, like Jews lined up to get food in concentration camps or lying in bunks in barracks. Users might share cartoons that depict ugly stereotypes about Jews, showing them with big noses and surrounded by piles of money. The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, was one of the handful of most frequently targeted journalists. In June, he wrote about some of the tweets he’s recently received, including a cartoon of the U.S. “Jewpreme Court,” a picture of money coming out of an oven, and a tweet that asked, “Why do Jews get so triggered when we mention ovens?”

There are death threats as well, as well as threats against the families of the journalists. This is not the kind of speech which qualifies for the protection of the First Amendment. Specific threats have been brought to the attention of law enforcement and I hope will continue to be pursued as the crimes they are.

Among the bios of the 1200 source accounts, the words that appear most frequently are “Trump,” “nationalist,” “conservative,” and “white.” The Trump campaign has not endorsed or supported this language; troublingly, though, it has not repudiated the anti-Semitic language and behavior of supporters, either.

I am aware that Mr. Trump has Jewish family members. I’m not sure why he does not take the anti-Semitic language of his supporters more seriously.  History teaches us that this kind of hate never stops with just one small group of people. I assure you that if Mr. Trump and his administration do not discourage this hate fully and quickly, we are going to see things in America no decent American ever wanted to see. 

It might start with “just the journalists,” “just the Jews,” “just the Muslims,” or “just the black activists.” I assure you that it will not stop there unless we put a stop to it now. We are seeing a rapid escalation of this language, plus acts of violence, and there is no time to waste.

What can we do? Here are some options:

  1. Send a strongly worded message to Mr. Trump directly (@RealDonaldTrump) asking that he repudiate his supporters’ hateful words and behavior and that he order them to stop it now. If you voted for him, please say so.
  2. If you are a Twitter user and you see hate speech against any group or a threat to any person, report it. Here is a set of directions for doing so. Don’t shrug it off. Twitter has been slow to respond to individual incidents, so it is important that your report be available as support to other reports. For other ideas, check out the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry.”
  3. Send supportive messages to any journalist whose work you appreciate. All of them, not just the Jews, are feeling threatened these days.
  4. Send supportive messages to anyone you know who might feel threatened by the outcome of the election. Tell them what you are doing to work against hate. Don’t tell them, “It’s going to be OK.” The rhetoric during the election was very threatening and incidents of actual violence against minorities have escalated since the election.
  5. If you see harassment or bullying of any kind in person, intervene before it escalates into violence. Read What Should I Do If I See Bullying? for an effective, psychologically sound method for intervention. Know what to do, so that when you see it you will know how to act safely and effectively.
  6. Support the Anti-Defamation League. Read their website. Sign up for their newsletters. Stay informed. ADL is not a partisan organization; major supporters include Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, lefties and right-wingers.
  7. Support the Southern Poverty Law Center. They track the hate groups behind many of these threats, and provide valuable information to law enforcement. Read the article on that website entitled White Supremacists Think Their Man Won the White House.

When I was ordained in 2008 I never dreamed that I’d have to write an article like this. Not here, not in the United States of America! I beg you to choose your course of action and follow through on it.

Prayer After an Election

There was bitterness before it even began, and bitterness follows it.  Whatever we think of the results, now we are a nation in need of healing. We have to come together. We need insight, we need a truer sense of justice, we need to learn mercy.

A prayer adapted from Moses’ prayer for his ailing sister, Miriam, in Numbers 12:13:

El na, refah na lanu!

Please, God, please heal us!

Two Rabbis in a Parking Lot

Image: Rabbi Suzanne Singer and I took a very awkward selfie while we watched over the polling place for Election Protection. 11/8/2016

I was all set to write an elegiac post about my day working at the polls in Georgia. I spent the day sitting in parking lots, 150 feet from polling places, smiling and watching for people who were distressed.  My first shift was at a place where things ran properly and there wasn’t a lot to do (which is the best possible scenario.) At the second place, in the evening, I was helping at a poll where there were some small issues, but everything was resolved. There was beauty in the sight on so many people, rich and poor, brown and white, educated and not, each completely equal in that moment of casting their vote.

I met some wonderful people: pastors in Macon, folks who drove down from Atlanta to help, rabbis from all over the country. I forgot to bring business cards, so we exchanged emails so that we could stay in touch.

Then I drove off, to this hotel just south of Atlanta, because I have an early flight. I watched the election returns in this hotel room.

I spent the day with one America: a diverse group of people who banded together to protect the rights of citizens. I’m a lesbian, a Jew, a rabbi, a woman, and I’m white. I chatted over lunch with a white Christian pastor and an African American Christian pastor, and we made friends. We don’t agree about everything (we found a few of those things while we were chatting) but we can work together despite the differences.

Then tonight I saw another America: an America that chose to elect a man for President who talks about rounding up Muslims, who has been endorsed by the KKK, who has breathed new life into white supremacist organizations. He gave speeches in which he dog-whistled anti-Semitic tropes. I don’t think he actually believes many of the horrible things he said to get elected, but he appealed to the lowest impulses of my fellow citizens and they chose him.

I commit to reaching out: reaching out to all the people I know who will be panicked about this election. I’ve already sent notes to Muslim friends, to some transgender friends, to others I know who are feeling vulnerable. I don’t know exactly what lies ahead, but I know that we will need one another.

 

Georgia on My Mind, Pt2

Image: A landscape just off I-75 south of Atlanta. Photo by Ruth Adar, 11/7/2016

I’m typing this in a hotel room in Macon, Georgia. As soon as I finish this, I’m off to bed, because tomorrow is Election Day and a good volunteer nonpartisan poll monitor gets her beauty sleep!

I’ve been through training and orientation and meditations and prayers with other rabbis. I have wonderful support from the folks at home, especially from Linda.

Two old friends were kind enough to host me for teaching my online class Sunday afternoon. That was a first: I’ve never taught it “on the road” before.  I was afraid that if I waited to travel on Monday, I might arrive so stiff and pretzelly that I’d be useless at the polls. But never fear: all is well. I’m as limber as I usually am, which is not very, but it will do.

One unexpected pleasure: the autumn colors are still in the trees. They are past their peak, but I haven’t seen these hills in the fall in so long that I think they’re beautiful.

I hope that tomorrow is peaceful. I rather doubt it, but we can always hope, right? I think of the vote as a sacred right, and I want everyone to have theirs. It’s only fair.

[For an explanation of what I’m doing in Georgia, and why Jews regard voting rights as sacred, read Georgia on My Mind, posted last week.]